Born to a Jewish family in Ukraine, Marina Genel came to the United States at the age of 17 and began her career in the cosmetics and beauty industry after obtaining a license from the Concord Institute. For 25 years, Ms. Genel served as a spa manager and skin care consultant in Monmouth County, New Jersey, eventually opening her own spa. In 2018, she decided to transition to the food industry, establishing Mishka SoHo in New York City. With a deep, abiding passion for healthy food, Ms. Genel was inspired, in part, by her grandfather, a culinary artist and restaurateur, as well as by her own experiences living with diabetes as a child, when insulin was still a fledgling treatment for the disease.
Today, Mishka SoHo is well known for its farm-to-table approach, sourcing all ingredients directly from farms, and for its menu, which encompasses dishes from a wide range of Eastern European cuisines. While Ms. Genel’s experience is primarily with Russian and Ukrainian food, she is grateful for the Mediterranean influences that she has had over the years, which has allowed for their kitchen to become more diverse and for new and unique items to be added to their menu. In addition to her focus on blending traditional dishes with modern food stylings, she has put particular effort into ensuring that they have plenty of vegan and vegetarian options.
Ms. Genel strives to follow her grandfather’s example of teaching others to treat food like an art and ensuring people know how to work in a kitchen. Her responsibilities with Mishka SoHo range from restaurant operations to cooking, serving and entertaining customers, and she is usually there from open to close. As she looks toward the future, she hopes to emphasize their beverage offerings to have Mishka SoHo recognized as a highly exclusive teahouse that makes magnificent non-alcoholic drinks. Ms. Genel also has plans to expand the restaurant into four new locations.
Alongside her work in the hospitality industry, Ms. Genel has contributed her skills to a number of other professional and civic endeavors. In 2021, she completed a degree through Guinot Institut Paris, a premier French cosmetic company and school. Furthermore, her civic involvements include regular donations to an organization in Ukraine that is helping refugees, with a particular focus on homeless individuals and children who have lost their parents. Ms. Genel has additionally volunteered her time to the American Red Cross.
For her excellence, Ms. Genel has been the recipient of a number of honors and accolades, including being interviewed on Fox 5 in New York and featured in Park Magazine. Mishka SoHo has also been named a Number One Restaurant by Yelp, and previously, her spa was nominated as the Number One Salon and Day Spa in Monmouth County, New Jersey. A particular point of pride for Ms. Genel has been having Mishka SoHo be selected as a venue for various TV programs, including “Sex and the City” and “Winter House,” and that the actors of said programs enjoyed her menu.
Above everything, however, Ms. Genel considers the most gratifying aspect of her career to be the praise and appreciation she receives from her customers. Nothing makes her feel quite as good as hearing a customer say that her food reminds them of what their grandmother or mother used to make, as part of her goal with Mishka SoHo is to create a dining experience that evokes a sense of “home.” This is even more relevant today because of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, and Ms. Genel is glad to have created an environment that allows people to feel welcome and comfortable while they enjoy a good meal.